Decoding Technical Jargon
April 18th, 2023
At FFW, we believe everyone should have full control of their digital presence, and future success. The first step is knowledge.
Finding information you need (broken down in ways that make sense) can seem impossible. Below, we break down some of the most common jargon and technical terms in an effort to reduce the confusion of the world of digital, and empower your understanding.
Definitions we'll cover:
- Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
- Best of Breed
- Composable DXP
- Continuous Delivery (aka Managed Services or Continuous Services)
- Customer Data Platform (CDP)
- Customer Experience (CX)
- Digital Experience (DX)
- Digital Experience Platform (DXP)
- Digital at Scale
- Digital Technology Stack
- Headless CMS
- User Experience (UX)
- User Interface (UI)
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
APIs connect your platform with the tools you use. For example, an API might be the link between your website and your authentication tool or a Google-powered search bar. Basically, it’s a way to access data: when a user clicks something on your site, the API sends a request to the tool they’re using and gets a response back, like putting your zip code into a weather app and getting back the weather in your area.
Best of Breed
Technical Definition: The practice of choosing and utilizing software products from different vendors to obtain the optimal capabilities for each application area required by the unique needs and landscape of a business.
Practical Definition: “Breed” refers to the different categories of products, technologies, and tools that enable you to best engage with your audiences digitally. A “Best of Breed” tool is a leader in its category. Essentially, a Best of Breed tool is a piece of technology designed to be really good at one specific piece of that experience, such as content management (CMS), ecommerce, analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), or hosting.
In the tech community, Best of Breed technology is a term that refers to individual solutions that are the best option in their specific category (“Breed”), for a specific organization and their unique needs and landscape (“Best of”). A Best of Breed stack is a uniquely curated set of solutions configured to provide the greatest benefit; compared to a monolithic platform (or “suite” like Adobe Experience Manager) that can do everything but may not do each function as well as a single solution dedicated to that specific capability.
A Best of Breed approach ensures that you’re using the best tools for what your teams need to best serve your customers and stakeholders, and their goals.
Technical Definition: A system architecture approach focused on leveraging best-of-breed technologies to provide the capabilities needed by an organization.
Practical Definition: Historically, web platforms were built using a monolithic platform with dominion over all. Because one system is running everything, and all tools and content are intertwined within, it’s easy to disrupt the effectiveness of your digital channels by changing tools and making updates. A monolithic system is by nature a one-size-fits-all approach, whereas a composable stack can be customized to your unique shape.
One way to think of it is seeing a monolithic CMS like your engine block – where if it goes out nothing works. Whereas composable is akin to if your radio or left window stopped working, your car would still work. A real-world example: your payment tool on the website went out, but the product information still displays.
A composable DXP allows you to insert and remove digital tools in “stacks” (see below) so that instead of having one codebase for the entire website, it is broken up into modular components that work together to make up the full site.. For example, you might use Salesforce CRM to engage with your audience, Drupal CMS to manage your content, Shopify for ecommerce, and Google Analytics to track it all. But if you were to decide to swap Shopify for BigCommerce, a composable DXP allows you to replace one tool without having to replace the entire stack.
Continuous Delivery (aka Managed Services or Continuous Services)
Our Continuous Delivery service is essentially a flexible, ongoing support model of engagement. One way to think about Continuous Delivery is to imagine it as a marathon, rather than the sprint of a more traditional agency engagement model. Across our experience helping clients optimize their platforms, we’ve seen variability that ranges from “keep the lights on,” to creating and implementing new features on their platform, or other long-term focused digital goals.
A continuous delivery agreement is a good way to ensure your site keeps improving, even if you haven’t yet aligned on a long-term vision for your digital platforms. In fact, Continuous Delivery service can address existing issues and needs, and best position your digital platform for a larger future project.
// Here’s a story of how our client, Delphix, was able to execute a major replatform through our Continuous Delivery service.
Customer Data Platform (CDP)
Technical Definition: A customer data platform is a collection of software which creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems. Data is pulled from multiple sources, cleaned and combined to create a single customer profile. This structured data is then made available to other marketing systems.
Practical Definition: Tired of leadership asking for a metrics report that takes 12 hours to make? A CDP can reduce that time to 12 seconds if it’s set up correctly. A CDP helps make integrations between data systems smoother by collecting analytic data from disparate sources -- like your social platforms, website, ecommerce tools, etc. -- providing a common definition of a customer, and validating the data is trusted and accurate. Essentially, CDPs are a powerful way to eliminate the chaos, confusion, and corruption of data, while serving it on a single, easy-to-view platform.
To set one up, we would use a tool such as Segment to gather all of your data, detangle it all so that it’s easy for you to get the answers you need, and help you understand how to use it.
Customer Experience (CX)
CX is every interaction your audiences have with your company at all stages of the customer journey—even if it doesn't result in a purchase or conversion. This includes the first time they see your advertisement, engage with a sales rep, interact with your support team, have their first experience ordering, initially use your product or service, and many more possibilities.
According to a 2022 Zendesk survey, more than half of enterprise companies (56 percent) are making better customer experiences their top business priority in the coming year.
It’s easy to see why. The benefits of delivering a great customer experience include:
- Improved customer retention
- Increased customer lifetime value (LTV)
- Stronger brand loyalty
- Better brand reputability
Digital Experience (DX)
DX, also known as digital user experience (digital UX), is the experience a user has engaging with a company or brand in a digital environment or through digital channels.
Put simply, DX is what a user experiences when they interact with your company via one or more digital technologies. By itself, technology does not drive DX. Rather, a user's DX depends on how your team uses these technologies to improve customer experiences. The tools and technologies that provide DX touch points are merely tools for a larger strategy. Achieving DX success is knowing how to best use them.
Ultimately, DX is everything your audiences see and experience across all digital channels and interaction points, from your website, social channels, digital communications, apps, etc. Digital channels are not only a popular way to give your customers what they want, they provide opportunities for you to engage your customers more efficiently, relevantly, and effectively than in person. Because these experiences are available globally, they can be customized based on local factors like location and language, or based on the relevant needs of each of your unique stakeholder audiences.
Digital Experience Platform (DXP)
DXP is an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery, and optimization of contextualized digital experiences.
Websites are important, but they are just one component of a DXP -- which may also include ecommerce platforms, mobile applications, authentication tools, content management, analytics, or digital asset management. A DXP allows you to create, manage, deliver, and optimize your digital experiences across multiple channels from one platform.
It’s hard enough for development teams to bring these tools together. Imagine how challenging it can become when adding in additional stakeholders; Marketing, leadership, IT -- not to mention customers who have no qualms about describing in detail how the bug in your check-out system destroyed their day -- are all involved in how your digital platforms function.
When we build a DXP, we combine experience, technology, and data to ensure that your tools are easy to access and use, and are tailored to your needs. We want your users to have the best experience possible without overloading your staff as they try to make all your digital channels function together. We also want to position your digital properties for continual improvement and optimization so that you can exponentially increase your capabilities and impact through all digital channels moving forward.
// Read about the DXP that could expand as the organization grows we built for WomenLift Health HERE
Digital at Scale
A digital platform (built on a foundation of process, best-of-breed technologies, and strategy) that’s able to efficiently and continually meet the constantly evolving and growing demands of an organization and its customers, in order to best position the organization for future digital success.
Optimizing the digital experiences you provide those you serve is critical to meeting your company’s goals -- this year, next year, and beyond. Digital at Scale means making sure your DXP, and the processes that drive it, empowers your teams to continually meet these goals by regularly eliminating inefficiencies and empowering new capabilities.
Many understand scale as a linear concept, but there are multiple dimensions to Digital at Scale that organizations need to take into consideration as part of a successful digital strategy:
Scaling across your organization
- The ability for your digital experience platform and practice to meet the needs of different stakeholders (business units, teams, sites) across your organization -- helping them work toward a common direction, align, and rise to new levels.
- The ability for your DXP and DX practice to meet the demands of your customers and other key external audiences -- that is greater than the normal, baseline experience. Constantly increase engagement by expanding the impact and channels serving customer experience through digital.
Scaling to the future
- Encompassing your potential business and consumer needs, Scaling to the future is the ability for your DXP and DX practice to meet the demands of your business and overall industry as it grows. This helps you stay ahead of the curve, not just for your business but of the market and larger digital ecosystem.
Finally, achieving Digital at Scale is not easy. In fact, according to Gartner, only 40% of enterprise level companies who attempt to achieve scale are successful. Failing to achieve digital scale is not a result of lack of monetary investment or technical tools. Rather, failure is often caused by neglecting to build a practice that will keep your digital platform growing, and allowing your teams to continue to meet the needs of internal stakeholders and external audiences; creating systems that enable teams across your organization to move forward together.
Digital Technology Stack
Technical Definition: The set of software technologies used by an organization and team to support digital objectives. At FFW, we focus on digital and web technology stacks, which include solutions for content management, analytics, ecommerce, experience optimization, and other related capabilities.
Practical Definition: Your Digital Technology Stack refers to the tools that make up your complete web experience. Common tools include your content management system (CMS), ecommerce tools, user log in, analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), digital asset management (DAM), and hosting platform. Because the tools are connected but not completely dependent on each other to function, it’s much easier to swap one out and replace it with the most appropriate tool than in a traditional website built on monolithic code. Think of it like changing your tires or upgrading your sound system instead of buying a new car.
Technical Definition: content management system where the content library (“body”) is decoupled from the presentation layer (“head”). Content editors utilize the headless CMS to create and manage content, and that CMS offers an API (application programming interface) for other applications to utilize and display said content.
Practical Definition: A traditional CMS consists of both a frontend (what visitors see and interact with) and a backend (where data is stored and organized). With a headless CMS, the frontend is cut off from the backend, so you can create whatever “head” is desired, whether that be a website, Android application, digital billboard, Alexa skill, or other digital action. This content can now be published anywhere on a variety of digital channels.
In a headless architecture, everything the user sees and interacts with (menus, page content, etc.) is rendered independently from the CMS. In the case of a website, this is typically done by a React or Vue.js application running in the browser. This allows each part of the website -- frontend and backend -- to focus on what it does best. The backend focusing on business logic and data retrieval, and the frontend focusing on display and user experience.
// Read about our work building a seamless headless platform for leading cybersecurity company, Deep Instinct here.
A JS framework allows for fully separating the experience from the underlying technology, allowing a more elegant or nuanced experience. With traditional monolithic (i.e., all-in-one suites) builds, how the back-end system worked would dictate to some degree what the front-end looked like - very “form over function.”
Replacing the CMS foundation or components on which the site is built. For instance, switching from a WordPress site to Drupal.
However, we use this term a little more broadly so that it essentially means substantial rebuilding efforts to your website. A web replatform project is not necessarily about a redesign, it’s more about positioning your website, app and entire digital presence to succeed in the context of ever-changing business landscapes, growth strategies, and user team and audience needs.
Examples of Reasons for Replatforming
- Your business is suffering from eCommerce tech stack bloat – It makes sense to migrate to a new and better platform that can help you simplify your processes and achieve your goals faster and easier.
- The platform you are currently using requires constant upgrades and maintenance, causing disruption and wasted resources.
- There are particular features that are new and necessary to satisfy ever-evolving consumer expectations and deliver smoother customer journeys than the current platform is able to supply.
- Your present platform is lagging behind other competitors. Replatforming enables you to future-proof not only your data and architecture but also the overall business.
- Streamline integration with partner brands and affiliates or across departments that use different systems.
- Inability to achieve scalability
- Your current platform is becoming obsolete. Ex: Those who are running their site on Drupal 7 (learn more here about upgrading Drupal and other options)
// Learn how we navigated an upgrade from Drupal 7 for City University of New York HERE
User Experience (UX)
UX is your audiences’ experiences interacting with your company’s digital touch points. UX requires a deep understanding of the user: their needs, wants, behaviors, and the context in which they will use a product. There are many different factors that affect the user experience. But the main ones are usability, usefulness, credibility, desirability, accessibility, and value.
Our UX experts integrate market and user research, strategy, product development, and design to empower our clients to provide optimized digital experiences for the audiences they serve. The goal of UX research is to gain a holistic understanding and fulfill the needs and expectations of your audiences.
User Interface (UI)
User Interface (UI) is the point of human-computer interaction and communication in a device. This can include display screens, keyboards, a mouse and the appearance of a desktop. It is also the way through which a user interacts with an application or a website.
Effective UI makes your audiences’ experience easy and intuitive, requiring minimum effort on the user's part to receive the maximum desired outcome.
So what’s the difference between UX and UI? UI is designed around the intended look and feel of the website or digital channel, while UX spans the entire process of conceptualization, development and delivery.